Saint Mary's College Makes a 4-Year Graduation Promise
There has been a buzz in the media lately about the cost of higher education and its perceived value. From President Obama to the halls of Congress the talk is about college affordability and the need to ensure that students receive an education that prepares them for successful careers.
Many students and their families make a decision about where to attend college based on the cost of yearly tuition alone. In fact, that approach may be quite deceiving. Statistics show that it takes the average student more than five years to attain a bachelor’s degree.
At Saint Mary’s College 93 percent of our graduates complete a degree in four years. Compare this to the percentage of graduates that complete a degree in four years at other non-profit privates (78 percent) and public institutions (52 percent)*.
The cost of not finishing college in four years is high. Students pay an additional year or more of tuition and other incidental costs. Add to that the lost wages from a delayed career start and the cost is significant. Finishing college in eight semesters is a key way to make higher education more affordable.
We are so confident that our students will graduate in four years that we recently announced our “Four-Year Graduation Promise.” Starting in the fall with the incoming Class of 2017, students who follow the promise’s guidelines are guaranteed to graduate in four years or the College will pay for any additional courses a student needs to earn her degree. No other college or university in the area offers such a promise.
This isn’t a recruitment strategy for us, or a new initiative on our campus. Helping students graduate on time is business as usual at Saint Mary’s. Together, we keep our eye on the prize—a bachelor’s degree. Our students work closely with their advisors and professors to stay on track and achieve their goals. We offer the courses they need, when they need them, led by exceptional faculty who are dedicated to teaching.
To government officials I would say that college affordability is not just about financial aid and low interest loans. Colleges and universities must use the students’ time wisely, for time is money. We must do everything we can to help students graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years so they can move on to their subsequent accomplishments. It’s one way to make college more accessible, affordable, and attainable for American families.
*These figures are based on the percentage of total graduates in eight years who graduate in four-years or less. Data comes from the National Center for Educational Statistics IPEDS Data Center and was pulled using the 2003 entering cohort data graduating in eight years.
Carol Ann Mooney has served as president of Saint Mary’s College since June 2004. She is the College’s first lay alumna president. She graduated from Saint Mary’s College in 1972 with a B.A. degree in English.
This appeared in the South Bend Tribune, April 6, 2013.